Percy Main progressed to the semi-final of the Bill Gardner cup with a battling display on a decidedly chilly and windy afternoon which swept across the Hirst Welfare pitch.
It was a win which saw off Northern Alliance premier division rivals Ashington Colliers, and in doing so Main kept only their second clean sheet of the season, following the 7-0 demolition of Swalwell in the previous round some three weeks previous.
It was Main’s third victory on the trot and came courtesy of second half strikes from the in-form pairing of Chris Laidlaw and Sam Thompson, as the latter took his tally to seven goals from the last five games.
Yet although Ashington could point to two disallowed goals on their behalf, the general consensus was that the visitors deserved their win and with several key players missing, those who figured in claret and blue certainly stepped up to the mark.
Percy Main had beaten Ashington 4-1 at Purvis Park in a league encounter earlier in the season, thanks largely to front runner Dan Sneap, who netted a hat-trick, but he was one of those absentees due to a hamstring injury, which allowed Anth Brown, who recently made the switch from Longbenton, to make his full debut, and but for a smart save by Jason Reveley in the home goal early on, he may have opened his Main account.
The turning point in the game came 14 minutes from time with Main 1-0 to the good, as Ashington’s Craig Webb found himself with the goal at his mercy, but Rob Watson in the Villagers’ last line of defence pulled off a superb challenge, which seconds later led to Thompson netting his side’s second goal which ultimately sealed the contest.
The first half was fairly unremarkable as most of the post-match talking points seemed concerned with the events which took place after the interval, but the visiting contingent were heartened as Main forced four corners within the first few minutes.
The nearest to a goal came as Brown brought out a point blank save close in from Reveley, while at the other end danger was not far away as Webb headed a left wing corner just past the post.
For Percy Main, James Mobberley, who was superb in defence throughout, threatened at the other end with a stinging free kick which was just the wide following a foul on Thompson on the edge of the area.
Colliers spurned a good chance as former Main man Jordan Miller, who later found himself in the referee’s notebook following a foul on Watson, sent over a measured centre from the right to which Joe Moscrop was unable to convert despite being well placed.
Long range attempts from Ryan McKee, Steve Hurd and Jack Armstrong failed to trouble the home goalkeeper, but Miller thought he had given Ashington the lead on 52 minutes with a header through a crowded goalmouth. But despite protests from the home side, his effort was ruled out for pushing.
Webb for home side headed wide from Shaun Gibson’s cross before the deadlock was broken on 59 minutes as Thompson released Laidlaw who ran on to fire home into the top corner, much to the relief of the visitors.
It was Laidlaw’s seventh goal of the season and looked to be the one which would provide his team’s passage into the last four.
The home side had other ideas, though, as Main keeper Danny displayed good handling as Gibson, looking to get his side back on terms, sent a telling free kick into the area, which was well taken by the visiting custodian, while down at the other end, Thompson broke and rounded Reveley, but his goal bound shot was cleared for a corner by a superb piece of last ditch defending.
On 75 minutes, Ashington’s Chris Smiles drove a low shot home from the edge of the area, but the home cheers were cut short by the assistant’s flag, and again there were protests, but once more they went unheard.
Only a minute later came the decisive moment, whether Webb allowed himself too much time on the ball or whether Watson’s brilliant tackle maintained his side’s slender lead was open to conjecture and depending on opinion, but nonetheless there were barely 15 seconds between that and Thompson’s superb finish at the other end to warm those watching from a Percy Main persuasion.
On Saturday Percy Main return to league action and face Gateshead Rutherford at home, kick-off 2pm.